Successful businessman Harris Rosen discusses pandemic difficulties, reputation he has built

Rosen joins Florida’s Fourth Estate

You may be surprised to hear about Harris Rosen's office. He has two floors of a motel. In fact, at some points he has also lived there. Here's what he thinks Donald Trump would say about walking into his office.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Harris Rosen is a successful businessman who has had the success many can only dream about.

He is an astute businessman who learned a valuable lesson seeing his parents sink into debt. His parents rented out apartments to immigrants and when residents couldn’t pay, they let them stay anyway.

Rosen said he never wanted to be indebted to anyone and to this day, he runs a successful organization with zero debt. The Rosen name is synonymous with the hospitality industry and Rosen himself has built a reputation that is hard to beat.

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He is, it turns out, a tough act to follow.

News 6 anchors Ginger Gadsden and Matt Austin have a candid conversation with Harris Rosen, who is a name well known in Central Florida, on Florida’s Fourth Estate podcast.

Rosen will be turning 83 years old this September and shows no signs of slowing down. He says he still works 10-hour days, 7 days a week. Clearly, a man who has achieved so much doesn’t have to put in those kinds of hours, but he takes a different approach to just about everything he does.

While his chain of eight hotels that bear his name is well-known throughout Central Florida, it is Rosen’s philanthropic side so many have come to appreciate and admire. In 1993, Rosen launched the Tangelo Park Program to help at-risk kids and their parents in this southeast Orlando neighborhood.

He pledged every child 2 to 4 years old would be able to go to pre-school at no cost to their parents. And if that weren’t enough, he also vowed each of those students who attended a public college in Florida would have their tuition, books, dorms and travel expenses taken care of by him.

Today, the Tangelo Park Program is such a huge success. We asked him why other people in his position are not doing the same thing.

He said it’s baffling when you look at the positive results, why more large organizations aren’t deeply invested in the communities like Tangelo Park.

“We’ve been doing this for 30 years,” Rosen said.

Harris Rosen has helped change the neighborhood of Tangelo Park by paying for college and preschool. Yet, other business leaders refuse to follow suit.

And the numbers tell a story of success.

“High school graduation rates went from about 45 to 50% to 100%. The college graduation rate in 4 years is 78%,” he said.

Rosen also offers to pay for community college and trade school for any student in the program.

Rosen says not only is it a boost to these kids and families but the community at large also benefits. Rosen said crime in Tangelo Park is down 80%. It has not gone unnoticed. In fact, Rosen says when Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings was sheriff, he acknowledged the turnaround in the community calling it a “quiet oasis” as opposed to an area that had been plagued with drugs and crime.

But for all of his success, Rosen has remained quite modest and has forgone the trappings of a multi-millionaire. For example, his office space isn’t opulent and doesn’t have gold doors or crystal chandeliers.

In fact, at one point, it was where Rosen lived.

“My office where I am right now, I have had for about 47 years. I lived in what is now my office for 16 years. It’s not a very glamorous office. It is three rooms in a two-story motel,” he explained.

He also has a term of endearment for his office space that has to do with a former president.

“I am from New York City. I knew Donald Trump growing up,” Rosen said.

“My dad would point to all of the apartments he and his dad owned. So, I now refer to this office as Trump Tower Annex”, Rosen said as he laughed at the thought of Trump walking into an office like his.

“I do believe as Donald walked up the two flights of stairs at a two-story motel, he might get sick,” he said.

Rosen talks more about what it was like to furlough staff members during the pandemic and how he is hopeful he can bring them all back.

He also spoke about why his company’s health plan means so much to him and why he is happy he can offer it.

Florida’s Fourth Estate looks at everything from swampy politics to a fragile environment and even the crazy headlines that make Florida the craziest state in the Union.

Ginger Gadsden and Matt Austin use decades of experience as journalists to dissect the headlines that impact Florida. Each week they have a guest host who helps give an irreverent look at the issues impacting the Sunshine State. Big influencers, like Attorney John Morgan, renowned Florida journalists and the scientists protecting Florida’s ecosystem, can often be found as guests.

Look for new episodes every Friday on Apple podcasts, Stitcher or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

Listen to the full episode of Florida’s Fourth Estate on Apple podcasts here or on Sticher here.

About the Author:

Ginger Gadsden joined the News 6 team in June 2014 as an anchor/reporter. She currently co-anchors the 4 p.m. 5:30 p.m. and the 7 p.m. newscasts.